During most days of my childhood and youth I spent time with my grandmother, Emma Virginia Bickerstaff Meinzen. She lived two doors and one large yard away on our street in the village of Mineral Ridge. My mom watched me from our doorway when, at age five or six, I walked down the street alone to Gramma's. Through grade school I spent as much time in her company as my parents would allow.
Gramma taught me how to crochet granny squares and how to cut and hand stitch Dresden Plate quilt blocks. She answered my questions about baking and cooking while she made dinner, measured a cake, or mixed and rolled out pie dough. She treated me to Vienna bread and real butter after school. (Our own house was an oleo-only house. Eating real butter was almost as good as eating chocolate.) I watched her sew, helped her hang laundry outside on the clotheslines on summer Mondays, and we picked strawberries on June mornings then toted them home and made jam and fresh strawberry pie.
Grampa was a barber. To keep the costs down, Gramma used a wringer washer to wash the towels Grampa used in his barber shop (though my mom and aunt have said that she washed them by hand before she had a wringer washer). When her youngest daughter graduated from high school and chose to go to college, Gramma worked in a bakery to help pay for her tuition.
Gramma never had a driver's license: someone else drove when she needed to go anywhere. If the driver was my grandfather, she frequently reminded him that he was going too fast (at 35 mph!). On the other hand, fast trains were not a problem. She once took me with her on a train trip to Cleveland. Someone drove us to the train station in Niles where we boarded the train and an hour or so later we arrived at our destination. (The trip by car from Mineral Ridge to Cleveland took two hours or more.) Riding a train was an exciting adventure, all the better because I shared it with Gramma.
Because of the precious hours I spent in her company I think I should know some facts about my grandmother's childhood and youth; her parents and their personalities; her school experiences; how she met my grandfather and decided to marry him; and so much more. But I don't know any of those things. Maybe I never asked when I was young; or maybe I asked and she didn't answer; or maybe I asked and have forgotten her answers. (It's easy to believe that she didn't share much about her younger years: I come from a long line of non-storytellers on both sides of my family who remained mum about their childhood experiences.)
Other than the anecdotal information above, everything I know about my grandmother, Emma Virginia Bickerstaff Meinzen, can fit in a thimble. She was born in Jefferson County, Ohio, on July 6, 1892. Her parents are Edward Jesse and Mary (Thompson) Bickerstaff. She is the second of 9 siblings. She married William Carl Robert "Bob" Meinzen in Mineral Ridge, Ohio, on September 8, 1914, and is the mother of four daughters. She died on February 7, 1973, in Warren, Ohio, and is buried in Kerr Cemetery, Evansville, Ohio.
That last paragraph, the one with the bare-bones biographical information, is important for genealogical purposes. But the previous paragraphs are the biography from my heart. They tell who my grandmother was by going beyond dates and locations. I wish I could find paragraphs like those for every ancestor. They will help future generations know my grandmother, know the kind, loving, and generous person she was, and help them understand a little about the relationship I had with her. I'm grateful to have been able to spend so much time with her. She was a light in my young life.
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This post is being contributed to the Carnival of Genealogy #116, Picture/Story for Women's History Month, which is hosted by Jasia at Creative Gene. Thank you, Jasia.